How Travel Can Benefit Our Mental Health
Ever feel like you are stuck in a rut? Taking a vacation and having a change of scenery, even if it is just a couple of hours down the road, can work wonders, and it has been scientifically proven that travel provides a number of benefits to your mental health. Just one trip away could help change your outlook on life for the better — here are a few reasons why it may be worth packing your suitcase.
It enhances creativity
As creativity is generally related to neuroplasticity (how the brain is wired), it means our brains are sensitive to change, influenced by new environments and experiences. According to the Colombia Business School’s Adam Galinsky, the key to getting a creativity boost is to really immerse yourself in the place and engage with its local culture; this open-mindedness can help you to embrace different ways of living to your own, in turn influencing your own outlook on life. Having a creative outlet is a great way to practice mindfulness and so the more you are able to put it to good use, the better.
It can affect your personality
Travelling, particularly if you are in a foreign country, can sometimes put you out of your comfort zone, and so you often have to adapt to those differences. This challenge strengthens the ‘openness’ dimension of your personality, according to a 2013 paper by Zimmerman and Neyer. The paper adds that this adaptation makes you less emotionally reactive to day-to-day changes, improving emotional stability, while meeting new people can also help with agreeableness, depending on the size of your existing social network.
Our lives can often be constantly busy, and sometimes we may feel that we are living each day on repeat. Travel is a great way to escape the stresses and commitments of everyday life, offering novelty and change in the form of new people, sights and experiences. Margaret J King of the Center for Cultural Studies and Analysis has said this about the stress-relieving abilities of travel, “With a short list of activities each day, freed up from the complexities of ongoing projects and relationships, the mind can reset, as does the body, with stress relief the main outcome.”
For some, travel is not about seeing new places, but rather escaping old ones that have a negative impact on our lives. Vacations can also help us to manage stress as they take us away from the places and activities that contribute to our stress levels.
Happiness is boosted even before you travel
The effects of travel aren’t felt only during and after your trip – in fact, even just the anticipation of going on vacation can boost your mood. People are at their happiest when they have a vacation planned, a study by the University of Surrey found, and are also more positive about their health, economic situation and general quality of life.
A study by Cornell University also found that we get more happiness from anticipating a travel experience in comparison to anticipating buying a new possession. It turns out that money can buy you happiness, but just not in the way we expected!
It strengthens relationships
Sharing travel experiences with your other half can make your relationship with them stronger, according to a survey by the US Travel Association, which has a knock-on effect on your own mental wellbeing and self-esteem. The results showed that not only does travel have long-term effects for couples, such as an increased closeness and perception of shared interests and goals, but also that it helps to maintain relationships, as well as to reignite a romantic spark.
Not only do you get to enjoy some quality time together and enjoy new experiences together, but overcoming the tougher elements of travelling together, such as planning the trip and making any compromises, can help bring you closer together and make you a stronger couple.
Crane, B. (2015). For a More Creative Brain, Travel. Retrieved 14 February 2017, from https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/03/for-a-more-creative-brain-travel/388135/
Gilbert, D. and Abdullah, J. (2002). A study of the impact of the expectation of a holiday on an individual’s sense of well-being. Journal of Vacation Marketing, 8(4), p.352-361.
Kumar, A., Killingsworth, M. A., and Gilovich, T. (2014). Waiting for Merlot: Anticipatory Consumption of Experiential and Material Purchases. Psychological Science, 25(10), p.1924-1931.
US Travel Association. (2015). Travel Strengthens Relationships and Ignites Romance (p. 1-2). Washington DC: US Travel Association. Retrieved from https://www.ustravel.org/sites/default/files/Media%20Root/5.2015_Relationship_ExecSummary.pdf
William, D. K. (n.d.) Science Proves That Traveling Can Boost Your Health and Overall Well-Being. Retrieved 14 February 2017, from http://www.lifehack.org/338212/science-proves-that-travelling-can-boost-your-health-and-overall-well-being
Zimmerman, J. and Neyer, F. J. (2013). Do we become a different person when hitting the road? Personality development of sojourners. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 105(3), p515-530.
Jury, H. (2018). How Travel Can Benefit Our Mental Health. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 7, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/how-travel-can-benefit-our-mental-health/